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What is Wrongful Termination

Sujata Iyer
To know if you can sue for wrongful termination, you first need to know what wrongful termination is and what are the different factors that could be considered as one.
While there are no laws explicitly pertaining to wrongful termination, there are certain laws that have been laid down in order to protect employees from being exploited and terminated for reasons that don't justify it. It also prevents employers from terminating employees for reasons that are in a sense, illegal. Hence, it's also called illegal termination.
Here are some important factors that constitute wrongful termination. So, if you feel that you have been fired on the ground of any of the cases given here, and if you can prove it, then you can definitely take your employer to court. Let's find out what they are.

Breach of Contract

Breach of contract, whether explicit or implied, can be taken up as wrongful termination. However, extreme caution must be exercised in such a case. For instance, if an employer fires an employee without good reason, even though the contract signed between them clearly states that he cannot do so until a specific period, the employer can be taken to court.
Also, remember to review your employment contract to check whether it has any clauses regarding consequences of breach of contract. If they are in favor of the employee and it bears your signature, there's not much you can do.
The case of an implied contract becomes trickier. In such cases, you must know exactly what all the contract states and also read between the lines to clearly understand whether things like raises, promotions, etc. are included within the contract.

Constructive Discharge

In some cases, organizations have a no termination policy. Hence, the organization may resort to other measures to ensure that the working conditions are totally unfavorable for the employee in question.
When the mental and physical stress combine, the employee will be compelled to resign and quit the organization and he can get sue the employer for wrongful terminating on the grounds of constructive discharge.
For instance, if an employee is made to work in a physically and mentally hostile environment, and he can prove that this environment was created in order to force him or her to quit, then he may have a case in a court of law.


Defamation is an offense, conducted for any reason. So, if an organization resorts to defamation of an employee's character, to facilitate the termination of the employee, then the organization can be taken to court.
Say an organization wants to fire an employee, but does not have a valid reason, and if it begins to use defamatory tactics like slander and spreading unfavorable communication about the employee and his character, the organization can be sued in a court of law, not only for wrongful termination, but also for going against public policy for defamation.


Under no circumstances, can an employee be terminated from his duties in an organization based on a discrimination towards him. This discrimination can be about the gender, race, creed, religion, disability, nationality etc., If any employer is proved to have fired his employee based on any form of discrimination, he can be taken to court.
However, the employee must be able to prove that he was indeed fired for said discrimination. If he's simply paranoid and the organization has solid grounds for termination (performance wise), then there's no question of wrongful termination.


Retaliation is another reason why organizations may fire employees. What is retaliation? It means the same as it does in lay language. The organization is involved in illegal activities or in activities against public policy and also against the law.
An employee of the organization becomes aware of these wrongdoings and blows the whistle on the organization. In return, the organization fires said employee. Now, if the employee can prove that his termination was because of the information he had exposed, then the organization will definitely have to pay compensation.
There might also be a case wherein the organization expects the employee to perform illegal activities, which the employee may refuse. As a result of this refusal, the employer terminates the employee. The employee can sue the employer for wrongful termination in this case, if he can prove it in a court of law.
That was a brief overview of what can be considered wrongful termination. Remember, this is no legal treatise. It is just a layman's understanding of what it is. For more detailed legal counsel, get in touch with your attorney.